Art Market

The fugitive financier Jho Low turned over works by Basquiat, Picasso, and Monet as part of a $700-million settlement.

Christy Kuesel
Nov 1, 2019 4:18PM, via artnet News

Jho Low at a 2014 gala in New York City. Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images.

As a part of a $700 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, Malaysian financier Jho Low will turn over works by Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Diane Arbus to the authorities. The deal still needs to be approved by the courts, but the Justice Department called it the largest civil forfeiture it has conducted.

Low still faces criminal charges for his role in the scandal surrounding Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, which was created by the Malaysian government to promote economic development in the country. U.S. authorities say Low misappropriated funds from 1MDB, placing them in shell companies and buying up a jet, a super-yacht named Equanimity, and millions of dollars of art. The scheme, which allegedly included Low and other high-level officials, purportedly ran from 2009 to 2015, resulting in over $4.5 billion being taken from the 1MDB fund.

“This settlement agreement forces Low and his family to relinquish hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains that were intended to be used for the benefit of the Malaysian people, and it sends a signal that the United States will not be a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement.

Low, who is currently a fugitive from the U.S. government, said in a statement that the settlement does not amount to an admission of guilt. Instead, he viewed the agreement as “a landmark global, comprehensive settlement” that resolved “in their entirety all of the forfeiture actions at issue.” According to NPR, authorities plan to use proceeds from the settlement to benefit those harmed by corruption in Malaysia.

Actor and art collector Leonardo DiCaprio had previously turned over the works by Picasso, Basquiat, and Arbus to the authorities in 2017; Low had given the works to DiCaprio as gifts.

Further Reading: How the World’s Biggest Financial Scandal Ensnared the Art World

Christy Kuesel